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UK to Introduce Annual Caps on Work and Family Visas: Key Changes Explained

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In a significant policy shift aimed at controlling the rising tide of immigration, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has revealed plans to implement annual caps on work and family visas. Announced on Monday, this proposal seeks to introduce a structured approach to immigration, directly impacting the number of new migrants entering the country each year.

Vision for Immigration Control

Prime Minister Sunak has vowed that a re-elected Conservative government will introduce annual limits on work and family visas. The policy will be formulated based on recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and will require parliamentary approval.

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While specific figures have not been disclosed, Sunak emphasized the need for “bold action to reduce immigration” in his party’s platform for the July 4 election.

Also Read: UK Visa Processing Times in 2024: What to Expect & How to Avoid Delays

Surge in Work Visa Issuance

Recent statistics reveal that the UK issued over 300,000 work visas in the year ending March 2024, more than double the 2019 figures. This surge, however, contrasts with a sharp decline in health and social care visa applications, attributed to stricter regulations.

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The care sector, grappling with tens of thousands of vacancies, has raised concerns about the impact of these tighter controls on staffing levels.

New Visa Rules Explained

The revised visa regulations have particularly affected Indian nationals, including students, caregivers, and skilled workers. The changes, effective from April 4, include heightened salary thresholds for Skilled Worker visas and restrictions on bringing dependents.

Specifically, the minimum salary requirement for Skilled Worker visa applicants has increased by 48%, from approximately ₹27.8 lakh to ₹41 lakh.

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Additionally, the financial requirements for family visas have been tightened by removing the 20% “going-rate” discount for migrant workers in shortage occupations.

Controversy Over Visa Regulation Changes

The UK government justifies these adjustments as necessary to prevent the exploitation of care workers recruited under misleading pretences. However, the new rules have led to a significant drop in visa applications, sparking concern among international communities and stakeholders in the care sector.

Also Read: UK Scraps Shortage Occupation List (SOL) for Skilled Worker Visas

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Decline in Visa Applications

According to the Home Office, the number of overseas applicants for care sector jobs has plummeted by 76% since the new regulations took effect. Family dependents in the Health and Care visa category have seen a 58% reduction in applications.

The student visa category has also experienced a dramatic 79% decrease in dependent applications, highlighting the widespread impact of the new visa policies on Indian nationals, who were previously the largest group receiving Health and Care visas.

Appeal Despite Stricter Visa Rules

Despite these stricter regulations, the UK remains an attractive destination due to its renowned educational institutions and the absence of a language barrier.

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Legal experts suggest that professionals may need to explore alternative destinations that offer easier transitions post-graduation, especially for those in lower-paid roles or those planning to return to India.

Also Read: UK Announces 5-Year Extension of Seasonal Worker Visa Scheme

Final Words

In summary, Prime Minister Sunak’s proposal to cap work and family visas annually marks a pivotal shift in the UK’s immigration strategy.

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As election day approaches, this initiative underscores the Conservative Party’s resolve to address immigration challenges, impacting sectors reliant on migrant labour and international communities.


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